Truffle Hound, Luke KennardThe jacket is white with a central area that occupies most of the jacket. This area carries a design in Verve's hosue colours: turquoise, bright pink, white, mustard yellow, black. It is divided up by thick white paths, like roots or veins. Two white circles occur. Against the pink, there is a pwhite dog, and top left possibly a dog kennel. Or, no, I think it is a chocolate truffle! The name of poet and pamphlet are in small caps on top of the design area, the poet's name in turquoise then (same line, same size) the pamphlet name in black. At the foot of the jacket is the publisher's name in mustard.

Verve Poetry Press, 2018   £7.50

Very like Magritte

The blurb aside helpfully sets the niggling question of definition — ‘More resolutely PROSE than any of his previous books of POETRY’. But what sort of prose? Prose can be as shape-shifting as poetry.

These fifteen prose-pieces share something but pinning it down is tricky. It is like encountering one of Magritte’s unsettling landscapes: something is going on but it’s hard to say exactly what.

Thinking about it in terms of surreal art helps to brings it in focus. Kennard’s prose has that mix of individually logical details and illogical totality; it’s the essence of surreal. And that’s fine, for me. His pieces are intriguing and entertaining; they unsettle and delight equally.

Ideally you need the whole text to understand how they work and so it’s difficult to lift quotations — but here are sample of openings:

For some time I had seen an autocue which told me what I should and shouldn’t do and say.
                     [ ‘Migraine’]

You can always find someone far more intelligent and someone way stupider than you […] Take me: I was writing a song about 39p ibuprofen — the kind you can get from a newsagents behind the counter.
                    [‘Ibuprofen Song’]

A forty-one-year-old man returns to his family home for Christmas and immediately regresses. Don’t want that cup. Want Spiderman. A straw articulated into the side as part of its web pattern. A crouched image of Spiderman, solemn as a pallbearer, mouthless face damaged in the dishwasher, hairline crack in the straw. It’s ruined. As you well know, says his father.

That last one is my favourite. It catches the inexplicable back-to-childhood layers of returning home.

You may wonder when the truffle hound will appear. Rene Magritte had an idiosyncratic way with titles; he would ask his friends, collectively, to come up with the most unlikely titles they could think of for his paintings and they vied to out-do each other in obscurity. There’s no mention of a truffle hound anywhere in Kennard’s pamphlet — and, for me, that’s a great satisfaction.

D A Prince